Is 2024 the year the cookie crumbles for A/B testing?

2023 is over and reviewing it we can surely say that it was a turbulent year filled with a lot of positive events. India became the first country to land a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole and also surpassed China to become the country with the largest population amount. WHO finally declared the end of the Covid-19 global emergency. We had the Barbenheimer frenzy, Disney turned 100 years old and the FIFA women’s world cup took place.

With that, we also had a lot of negative events in 2023 and what probably comes to mind for most people is wars and inflation around the world.

Beginning of the end

People working in the world of the web (especially marketers) probably saw the end of 2023 as the beginning of the end. The end of cookies, which has its doomsday later this year.

The dramatic statement stems from a blog post by Google last year where they announced that we should prepare for the third-party cookie phaseout along with a timeline. Their intentions and plan was clear “
Chrome plans to disable third-party cookies for 1% of users from January 4th, 2024 to facilitate testing, and then ramp up to 100% of users from Q3 2024”.

Seeing as Chrome has a market share of over 60% this will definitely have an impact on how companies work moving forward.

Source: Google, Prepare for the third-party cookie phaseout

This move by Google is not something new. We’ve gotten accustomed to updates from companies doubling down on privacy and security making it harder to track users and this will probably not be the last rodeo.

With all this happening people are of course worried about what will happen with their A/B testing programs and this is something that has been expressed a lot on social media platforms like LinkedIn.

Cookies role in A/B testing

Reading this post you might already know the cookies role in A/B testing, but if you don’t these are some of the main reasons:

  1. Segment users into different groups, e.g. variation A or B so that the user has a consistent experience.
  2. Keep track of events the user has triggered, e.g. clicks, pageviews, conversions so that it’s only measured once per unique user.

  3. Prevent users from participating in multiple tests or any test, e.g. if you are running two tests simultaneously on your product detail pages or if you just want to target a set amount of users.
  4. Include users that have been part of another project or triggered an event, e.g. if the target audience in your test is users that come to your site through a social media campaign, you might want them to still be a part of your test if they return as a direct user. Or if a user has triggered a purchase event, you might want them to be a part of a test for returning users that have made a purchase.

While cookies are not the only way to store this kind of information, it is by far the most standardised way and therefore it is crucial that we can continue using them until something new and better comes along. With that said, cookies are not by any means perfect. Some browsers will automatically clear cookies, users might use multiple devices, browse in incognito and so on, all leading to that you’ll be seen as a new user.

The misconception

In the quote from google we could read that what will be affected is third-party cookies. The term “death of cookies” is kinda loose and causes misconceptions since it would make you believe it refers to all cookies, but “the death of cookies” won’t affect first-party cookies which are the cookies that make your website function. Only the third-party cookies that make it possible for advertisers to do cross-site tracking, e.g. seeing an ad of the TV you just viewed on instagram, will be affected by the coming cookie death.

Conclusion

We at Symplify only set first party cookies, meaning that this coming shift in how we track users won’t affect the ability to conduct A/B testing. So as of now you don’t need to worry about your A/B testing program crumbling away. With that said, it’s important to keep up to date with new regulations and be at the forefront of what is happening, because if history has taught us anything, it is that privacy and security will only become more and more important to users.

2023 is over and reviewing it we can surely say that it was a turbulent year filled with a lot of positive events. India became the first country to land a spacecraft near the moon’s south pole and also surpassed China to become the country with the largest population amount. WHO finally declared the end of the Covid-19 global emergency. We had the Barbenheimer frenzy, Disney turned 100 years old and the FIFA women’s world cup took place.

With that, we also had a lot of negative events in 2023 and what probably comes to mind for most people is wars and inflation around the world.

Beginning of the end

People working in the world of the web (especially marketers) probably saw the end of 2023 as the beginning of the end. The end of cookies, which has its doomsday later this year.

The dramatic statement stems from a blog post by Google last year where they announced that we should prepare for the third-party cookie phaseout along with a timeline. Their intentions and plan was clear “
Chrome plans to disable third-party cookies for 1% of users from January 4th, 2024 to facilitate testing, and then ramp up to 100% of users from Q3 2024”.

Seeing as Chrome has a market share of over 60% this will definitely have an impact on how companies work moving forward.

Source: Google, Prepare for the third-party cookie phaseout

This move by Google is not something new. We’ve gotten accustomed to updates from companies doubling down on privacy and security making it harder to track users and this will probably not be the last rodeo.

With all this happening people are of course worried about what will happen with their A/B testing programs and this is something that has been expressed a lot on social media platforms like LinkedIn.

Cookies role in A/B testing

Reading this post you might already know the cookies role in A/B testing, but if you don’t these are some of the main reasons:

  1. Segment users into different groups, e.g. variation A or B so that the user has a consistent experience.
  2. Keep track of events the user has triggered, e.g. clicks, pageviews, conversions so that it’s only measured once per unique user.

  3. Prevent users from participating in multiple tests or any test, e.g. if you are running two tests simultaneously on your product detail pages or if you just want to target a set amount of users.
  4. Include users that have been part of another project or triggered an event, e.g. if the target audience in your test is users that come to your site through a social media campaign, you might want them to still be a part of your test if they return as a direct user. Or if a user has triggered a purchase event, you might want them to be a part of a test for returning users that have made a purchase.

While cookies are not the only way to store this kind of information, it is by far the most standardised way and therefore it is crucial that we can continue using them until something new and better comes along. With that said, cookies are not by any means perfect. Some browsers will automatically clear cookies, users might use multiple devices, browse in incognito and so on, all leading to that you’ll be seen as a new user.

The misconception

In the quote from google we could read that what will be affected is third-party cookies. The term “death of cookies” is kinda loose and causes misconceptions since it would make you believe it refers to all cookies, but “the death of cookies” won’t affect first-party cookies which are the cookies that make your website function. Only the third-party cookies that make it possible for advertisers to do cross-site tracking, e.g. seeing an ad of the TV you just viewed on instagram, will be affected by the coming cookie death.

Conclusion

We at Symplify only set first party cookies, meaning that this coming shift in how we track users won’t affect the ability to conduct A/B testing. So as of now you don’t need to worry about your A/B testing program crumbling away. With that said, it’s important to keep up to date with new regulations and be at the forefront of what is happening, because if history has taught us anything, it is that privacy and security will only become more and more important to users.